The European Studies Council Baltic Studies Program presents
Rūta Petkutė, Joseph P. Kazickas Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University:
“Paradoxes of Neoliberal Politics in a Post-Communist Society.”
For Eastern European societies in the 1990s, the desire for freedom was the key driving force for the shift towards Western liberal democratic capitalism. The West advocated a swift implementation of neoliberal reforms as the only path to a free and democratic society. However, the Soviet and neoliberal systems turned out to be more in common than their official ideological narratives suggest.
The talk will focus on the case study of the post-communist Lithuanian academia. Drawing on historical analysis and study of Lithuanian academics’ narratives on change, it will argue that, since the 1990s, neoliberal politics in Lithuania has tended to exacerbate the problem of illiberalism it promises to solve. The talk will demonstrate that the seemingly antithetical the Soviet and the Western political regimes share illiberal and anti-democratic effects in the existential dimension of political life. Similarly to the Soviet order, albeit more subtly, neoliberalism has tightened its grip on academia and the public intellectual sphere more generally, threatening to fracture the ideas of intellectual freedom, truth, public good, and democratic civil society. Thus, given the complexity of the transformation, Eastern Europe is a ‘microcosm’ of the tensions between neoliberalism and democracy as well as between freedom and control.